The government have, needless to say, not had a particularly good few weeks. They have lost two cabinet minsters and have several more under clouds who the media have portrayed the Prime Minister as too weak to sack. You’d probably expect the government to be tanking in the opinion polls.

Yet YouGov’s latest poll for the Times has topline figures of CON 40%(nc), LAB 43%(+1), LDEM 6%(-2). Fieldwork was on Tuesday and Wednesday, so right in the middle of the Priti Patel row but before her resignation, and changes are from mid-October. Labour are ahead, but it’s the same sort of narrow lead that they’ve held since just after the election. As in other recent polls, Conservative support appears to be holding steady at around 40%.

It is a similar case with Theresa May’s own ratings. Her approval ratings are negative, but show no sign of collapse: 31% think she is doing well (unchanged from last month), 55% think she is doing badly (four points down from last month). 29% of people think she is a strong leader (up one point), 49% think she is weak (down three). 42% think she is competent (no change), 38% think she is incompetent (down three).

This raises the question of why support for the government and Theresa May is holding up when, on the face of it, they seem to be in such a mess. One eternal reason is that most people pay far less attention to political news than anyone reading this blog does. Cabinet rows and government weakness will make no difference to the voting intention of people who are wholly unaware of them. As an illustration, the poll also asked people if they thought Theresa May should get rid of Priti Patel (at a time, remember, when the story was all over the news and had been for four days). 17% said she should stay, 30% that she should go, 53% gave a “don’t know”. Government incompetence won’t hurt Tory support among people who are unaware of it.

An alternative possibility is that Tory voters are sticking with the Conservatives, however poor they are, because the alternative is Jeremy Corbyn. To test this YouGov asked people who said they’d vote Tory tomorrow why they were supporting them. Only 7% of Tory voters said it was because they both agreed with the government’s aims and thought they were delivering them, 48% said they agreed with the government’s aims even if they were struggling to deliver them, 22% said they thought the government were competent, even if they didn’t agree with all their aims. 19% of Tory voters, however, said they didn’t think the government were governing well and didn’t agree with their aims… but they still preferred them to Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour.

Why is the government’s support holding up? As ever, there is never a single simple reason, but part of it is that most people don’t pay much attention to the day-to-day soap opera of politics, so individual scandals will not necessarily make a huge difference. Secondly, while even most Tory voters think the government are struggling to deliver their aims, they do mostly agree with what they are trying to do. Thirdly, there are a significant chunk of Tory voters who don’t think they are governing well and don’t agree with what they are doing… but would still vote for them because they aren’t Labour.

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1,227 Responses to “YouGov/Times – CON 40, LAB 43, LDEM 6”

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  1. Although I have said for ages that a 60/40 split against brexit could trigger a supporting reaction from a majority of MPs I do have increasing doubts that we will reach that figure.

    My main concern is very simple: the great majority in the UK just don’t notice anything to do with detailed politics or, if they do, they don’t give a toss because they don’t relate it to their own lives anyway.

    I hope I’m wrong about this but I think we could sleepwalk into brexit because there just won’t be enough Tory MPs willing to do something that might lead to a general election, in order to stop it unless public opinion moves – and moves significantly.

  2. Although I have said for ages that a 60/40 split against brexit could trigger a supporting reaction from a majority of MPs I do have increasing doubts that we will reach that figure.

    My main concern is very simple: the great majority in the UK just don’t notice anything to do with detailed politics or, if they do, they don’t give a toss because they don’t relate it to their own lives anyway.

    I hope I’m wrong about this but I think we could sleepwalk into brexit because there just won’t be enough Tory MPs willing to do something that might lead to a general election, in order to stop it unless public opinion moves – and moves significantly.

  3. @Pete

    That’s so sad.

    I live in a multi-ethnic area, and people of all religions and none get into the spirit of Christmas.

    Despite being firmIy atheist I have also attended the local mosque and been to Dwalavi celebrations.

    Too many closed minds….

  4. CMJ

    Last line sounds like a title for a song.

  5. I’ll dig out the old guitar at home. It’s not tuned, and I can play only A,C,D and G chords, but I’ll see what I can bash out…

  6. @MARKW

    “ta for the link from a few pages back. I resist the urge to go off topic other than to say the fermi paradox becomes ever more vexing”


    No probs, and yes I was just giving a heads up, wasn’t trying to get a chat going about colonisation etc., although one day of course we might talk about polling on Venus or Mars.

    (Though possibly not polling on Titan. One of the interesting things the series throws up is that colonising Titan sans terraforming wouldn’t be very pleasant because so cold, and if you warm it up with terraforming then you lose what’s good about it, I.e. the cold, which makes industrial processes and computers much more efficient, so it’s probably better to colonise with robots.

    Of course if the robots become sentient we are back to polling robots. Just trying to take the long view re: polling).

    The Black Swan and OCP stuff is relevant though and discussing some science stuff is I think useful in terms of developing the thought processes required, systems and stuff. Meanwhile if we resolve the Fermi paradox by finding some aliens, then of course we may need to poll the aliens too. (This may present difficulties regarding shy voting etc., and taking into account things like their holidays, which may be a bit different).

  7. We need the Trumpster running the UK.

    “He said the trip had resulted in sales of $300bn (£229bn) “worth of equipment and other things”. “And I think that number is going to be quadrupled very quickly. So that’s over a trillion dollars’ worth of stuff,” Trump added, without specifying the deals.”

  8. @TW

    “@ CARFREW – it is perception that matters. May was a no-show in the campaign so graduates were left with the unchallenged perception that Corbyn might “deal” with the problem of graduate debt.”


    Ah yes, well you didn’t talk of perception, you talked of Labour quietly reneging on the matter, which didn’t happen.

    As to perception, Anthony posted a thread which shows IIRC that taken as a whole, voters did not fall for the idea Corbyn had promised to get rid of all the debt. I’m not sure though and am open to correction on the matter, and don’t recall how young people responded.

  9. “International credit ratings agency Standard & Poor’s has declared Venezuela to be in “selective default”.
    The ratings agency said the South American nation had failed to make $200m (£153m) in repayments on its foreign debt.
    Venezuela’s state-run oil company PDVSA has also been declared in default by rating agencies Fitch and Moody’s.”


    “another way is possible”. :-)

  10. @ ALEC – See my post regarding breakdown of MPs in HoC.

    So let’s consider the democratic wishes of CON VI. They currently break roughly 75% Leave v 25% Remain.

    Ignoring DKs the last YouGov had the highly flawed hindsight question at 52/48 Remain/Leave. You can run various scenarios but for even the highly flawed hindsight question to get to 60/40 Remain/Leave (ignoring DK) then CON would still be very comfortably pro-Leave.

    People also forget the devolved nations (especially Scotland) distort the Brexit situation. In England almost 2million more people voted Leave than Remain (53.4% to 46.6%). The situation was even more stark at a constituency level with an estimated 421 of the 574 E+W seats voting Leave (73%). Again you need to be roughy 60/40 Remain/Leave to tip the constituency count to just a 50/50.

    The would Corbyn ignore the referendum was a simple question. I’m saying no – he’d begrudgingly prefer to hold a new ref because if he left it to a GE and supported Remain then he’d win a few more seats in London but be decimated in the North and Midlands.

    This is why I would like CON to flush out Corbyn’s true Brexit belief.

    If you see the maths differently or think CON would commit suicide by moving to Remain then happy to discuss.

  11. Carfrew, as regards the Paradox, I like the suggestion that the aliens are in full view but we lack the flexibility in our observations and thinking to identify them.

  12. This expert says that Venezuela will be fine:

    And I trust him over the haters.

  13. @TW

    “Regarding Corbyn and Brexit – the LAB VI are already 75%ish Remain – what is he waiting for?

    As I have posted in the past. Brexit is an opportunity for Corbyn to lead . I personally think he is quite happy to be led out of the EU hoping to swoop in after 29Mar19. He is doing a great tactical job keeping both Remain and Leave ambiguous but that bluff has a sell-by date.”


    Yes well if he only goes by Labour voters, and there is still a majority pro Remain, he’s not in the strongest position.

    I should add, even if the numbers change and there’s a majority in favour of Remain, it may still not be a good idea for Corbyn to go for another referendum, because a proportion of Remainers may think that we should still go ahead regardless because the matter has already been decided.

    The question really then becomes, at what point might there be a majority in favour of another referendum in which a majority prefer Remain. If both are popular, it becomes easier for Corbyn to offer another ref.

    However as you seem to suggest, if Corbyn really wants to leave, this wouldn’t appeal to him. It might appeal to a successor though. The longer Brexit drags on, there might be more chance for another referendum.

    (It’s possible Corbyn might want to see the process speeded up and for May to want to slow it down…)

  14. (To clarify: if he only goes by Labour voters, and there is still a majority across ALL voters pro Remain, he’s not in the strongest position.)

  15. I might add that this is a good example of why polling is useful even if people really don’t understand the issues on Brexit. Because they’ll be voting, and you don’t necessarily want to be offering another referendum if people are opposed, whether they understand or not.

    (If supplementary questions help reveal the nature of the misunderstanding of course then you might even be able to address it, e.g. Anthony’s thread about misperceptions regarding welfare.)

  16. @MARKW

    “Carfrew, as regards the Paradox, I like the suggestion that the aliens are in full view but we lack the flexibility in our observations and thinking to identify them.”


    I dunno Mark, I think I might have spotted a couple! They’re possibly being a bit more brazen…

  17. @TW – “If you see the maths differently or think CON would commit suicide by moving to Remain then happy to discuss.”

    As ever, you oversimplify.

    There are already quite a number of remain Con MP’s. They aren’t bothered about the aggregate poll numbers for their party. They are either representing their own constituencies or doing what they should be doing in a repreentative democracy, which is representing what they think is in the best interests of their country.

    Again, many Con voters want to see Brexit, and it may be that this proportion holds up. But wht if the Con vote starts to fall, but the leve proportion holds up? Would Con MPs feel duty bound to represent only the majority of Con voters, or would some of them think doing what a shrinking number of voters wants misses the point that they would actually need to do what non Con voters want in order survive?

    All I’m saying is that Brexit is likely to create major disruptions, and as a result it has the potential to create major shift in sentiment – in all and any direction.

    Don’t bother pinning your calculations on today’s polls, based as they are on a comlpetely unknown set of outcomes. It really isn’t relevant to how people may perceive the final deal.

  18. @ CARFREW – I understand how Corbyn was able to hide behind the snap GE – he can certainly claim insufficient time to fully clarify every policy (Trident another example that was knocked into a vague future review). May allowed him to do so as she never confronted him in TV debates.

    Since the GE a lot of “clarifying” has been quietly going on:
    – public sector workers will not be getting 5% pay rises (a vague misquote from unions perhaps?)
    – the Brexit position is still unclear according to the polls but a lot more EEA+CU leaning than when he sacked 3 MPs from his front-bench

    The LAB conf also showed a shift further left (McDonnell’s new policies) and the locking in of the Union+Momentum majority decision ensuring any Corbyn successor will be far-left.

    I very much doubt many people are aware of what is going on in LAB as CON are not on the campaign trail and the spotlight is on CON’s various disasters.

    I would prefer CON to offer a +ve future rather than campaign on fear but I very much doubt Corbyn (or his successor) will be given a free ride next time. It will also be impossible for Corbyn to be vague and ambiguous as the GE will either be the timetabled 2022 or an earlier date by Corbyn’s own making. If the next GE is before 29Mar19 then I think voters will want a lot more clarity on exactly what he would do if he took over Brexit negotiations – we all know the numbers and issues involved on UKPR and during an election campaign I expect the voters will be made very well aware as well.

  19. @ ALEC – first and foremost CON MPs will want to stay errr… CON MPs!!

    The next timetabled GE is 2022, hence it is important to consider what would bring the govt down before that date.

    IMHO if and when HoC is grinds to a halt over Brexit then CON will go for a new ref before a new GE.

    Alastair Campbell had the comic suggestion that May will perform a U-turn of the scale of ignoring the referendum result and deciding UK should actually stay in the EU. I rewrote the speech suggesting she would come out soon and say “” – hopefully with Hammond back to his Jan-Mar views or a new CoE.

    As always, we’ll have to wait and see! The default is sleep walking to a no-deal outcome.

  20. BBC argues that voter registration in the last general election was the factor that led to May not having a majority

  21. @Howard

    Don’t recall anyone saying Gove was now a Remainer. Could you point to where that happened?

    I ask because I suspect you’re misinterpreting something I posted a few days ago. I am sure you’re doing that by accident.

    It is currently politically impossible for any high profile Leaver to change their mind, nor do I think the conditions warrant it. Gove, in particular, cannot change sides at the moment for a range of reasons. But that may not last.

    Some things I have found out of late have made me realise that Gove is a much more interesting and complex figure than most realise. I wouldn’t assume he is going to take an obvious or conventional path.

  22. @Alec

    Yes, for example in my constituency, Macclesfield, we have a Tory MP, who backed Remain. This is in line with the wishes of his constituents, who also voted Remain. Thus Rutley is doing his job properly as a representative (although being Rutley and not overburdened with the desire to stick his neck out or do more work than he has to, he has been pretty silent).

    Meanwhile, Andrew Bingham backed Leave in High Peak, a constituency that was almost exactly down the middle. He lost his seat. I can assure you that this was entirely connected.

    We’re in a representative democracy not an elected dictatorship, so it simply isn’t as easy as ‘all Tory MPs must back Leave’.

  23. @ CR – it has been estimated that 421 of the 574 E+W seats voted Leave (on a representative democracy basis)

    If you want to know why LAB had to back Leave then a good analysis here:

    All of this info was out back in Jun-Jul 2016.

    Chris Hanretty even has a nice spreadsheet that you can use to put a filter into a GE calculator (wasted a lot of time on that!) or simply play around with a UNS shift to see at what point Remain would ‘win’ on a representative democracy basis (clue: its close to a 60/40 Remain/Leave)

    The only real question is would enough CON MPs vote with LAB and risk a confidence vote in their own party that might trigger a chain events that ends up in CON losing power.

    The supplement question is then would Corbyn ‘permit’ enough LAB-Leave to offset those CON rebels or just conveniently be Abbsont for the vote? Lots of migraines perhaps?

  24. The problem with Quote and counter quote on Venezuela is that people seem to think they can use it as a proxy for socialism or just left of centre labour policies.

    Venezuelas economy is a mess because it has been appalling badly managed by economic incompetents, but the same can be said for a whole string of other countries that have been firmly free market.

    Rather than prove the argument one way or another for “Socialism!” it actually makes the argument for a mixed economy and a balance between free markets and regulation much like the UK and much of Europe.

    Try to state run it and it stalls and crashes….let the Markets run free and it overheats….and crashes.

    What we need isn’t Capitalism or Socialism it’s Economic Competence.


  25. @TW

    “@ CARFREW – I understand how Corbyn was able to hide behind the snap GE – he can certainly claim insufficient time to fully clarify every policy (Trident another example that was knocked into a vague future review). May allowed him to do so as she never confronted him in TV debates.”


    Well, I don’t have full recall of Corbyns every utterance, so am not really in a position to determine the full extent or otherwise of clarification across the board.

    Your concerns about lack of clarity seem to have morphed into something about pay rises which you suggest might not have been Corbyn but the unions, and Brexit, which is unclear all round really, and Corbyn isn’t part of the negotiating team. It does seem you’re reaching a bit here Trev.!

    It’s possible some may have preferred a lack of clarity, to the outright u-turns of May of course, which do not seem to trouble you. Then again, some May not have cared about May’s indecision, because prioritising Brexit. (Although why they’d not think u-turns might apply there too is something else.)

  26. TW ” Abbsont for the vote? Lots of migraines perhaps?”

    How old are you?

  27. Peter

    [To be read in your best League of Gentlemen local-shopkeeper’s voice]

    “What’s all this!! We’ll have no sensible posts here!! This is political forum for political people!!!! ”

    The series is being repeated on BBC2 at the moment and is very dark and very funny.

  28. Interesting that Rees-Mogg has backed Minford’s latest call for a hard Brexit, unilateral free trade, deregulation and slashing corporation tax ( which was also retweeted by the Department of Trade and then deleted). This also follows Dyson’s call at the weekend for the reduction of employment rights and the abolition of corporation tax after Brexit. Following the leaking of the Johnson/Gove letter, it looks like the hard Brexiters are lining up to drive a weak PM in the direction of a Brexit which enable the Atlanticist right to implement its long held ambitions.

  29. hireton

    Bring back the birch and deportation.

  30. @Peter

    Urging the electorate to vote for people on the basis of their competence is terribly old-fashioned.

  31. @paul croft

    And National Service, the threepenny bit and the singing policeman at Highbury on match days.

  32. Interesting to note Nigel Farage now can’t afford to bluff it out when he’s sued for telling lies.

  33. Chris Riley, I was pleased, I gave five quid to the HnH legal fund.

  34. One thing that is talked about regarding the last election is to what degree it was a referendum on Corbyn’s fate. Everyone was aware that a bad result would be the end of Corbyn. Gaining so much vote share and reversing the polling lead so decisively was a major vote of confidence in Corbyn.

  35. @pete and @chris riley

    That is sad. When I lived in Cairo all our Muslim friends and acquaintances made a point of wishing us a Happy Christmas!

  36. WB

    Thanks for the link to the BBC report on online voter registration.

    Interesting that EC reckon 40% of “applications” to it are duplicates.

    Having used it (to ensure that we were still on the electoral roll) after some scare story or other, it struck me that it is rather badly constructed. Rather than having every query go through an identical process, it would seem more sensible to put in your details and (if they are all the same as for the existing roll) then just put up a message that “You are already registered to vote”.

    Having the numbers for both kinds of “applications” separately would avoid the need for the EC to make guesses, and provide better, more detailed, data on the real applications.

  37. Pete

    While I agree with your point about the sad (very bad) response to Tesco’s Christmas ad, it’s worth pointing out that Tesco doesn’t sell halal Turkey, which kind of undermines the ad’s story line.

  38. From Matt Singh
    Matt Singh Retweeted Number Cruncher Politics

    Breakdown of BoJo net favourability:

    18-24 -39
    25-49 -33
    50-64 -36
    65 plus +9

    Men -26
    Women -30

    CON +12
    LAB -71
    LD -62

    Remain -67
    Leave +3

    London -37
    South -18
    Mids/Wales -20
    North -35
    Scot -56

    ABC1 -37
    C2DE -16

    All -29

  39. Frank Field is arguing in the House of Commons that we should leave the European Union on our time -ie midnight GMT not CET, one hour before (Faisal Islam)

    Field bidding for a place on a Parkinson committee celebrating the Law of Triviality?

  40. @TW – “IMHO if and when HoC is grinds to a halt over Brexit then CON will go for a new ref before a new GE.”

    Well amidst your interminably detailed posts laying out every conceivable (and some inconceivable) scenarios, on this one, I can agree with you.

    I suspect it’s very likely that one or both of the main parties falls back on a second vote to confirm or strike down Brexit. Once we see the threats involved, no one will want to spend the next two or three electoral cycles taking the blame.

  41. @ MARKW – let’s see what happens when MPs vote shall we! I’ll swap you Ken Clarke for Frank Field. Nicky Morgan for Kate Hoey. Guessing a little after that but CON have a head start in the race to 322 (or half of whoever shows up)

    326 v 290 at 2nd reading. I expect it will be closer on a few of the upcoming votes and actually hope some of the sensible amendments are included.

  42. As Christmas mood was mentioned earlier, and the ad, I felt being excluded from all these social, ethnic, and religious inclusion, as I missed:

    “Red star is up on the Christmas tree,
    A hammer for you, and a sickle for me,
    Goodwill to men (and women), let’s celebrate
    By purging the enemies of the state “


    “The problem with Quote and counter quote on Venezuela is that people seem to think they can use it as a proxy for socialism or just left of centre labour policies”


    Clearly the meme has not taken root if they have to keep repeating it. Unaccountably, Corbyn’s policy on tuition fees, or sitting on a train floor, do not make everyone think of how the exact same policies have brought Venezuela its economic difficulties.

    I guess we shall see how many repetitions it takes before we all find ourselves immediately associating Venezuela’s economic situation with Corbyn. I’m quite partial to Venezuelan rum so may be particularly susceptible.


    For me the GE2017 was an excellent one to lose. basically Corbyn did everything but win. He moved the agenda on to his policies. GE2017 was as much a referendum on austerity as you yourself are arguing that austerity is dead. it wasn’t on 7th June 17. but it was on 9th June 2017. There is now a magic money tree.

    The advantage is that when you win the toss you can put the other side into bat. I accept that it make it uncomfortable because at some point the Tories have to have policies. You have ably said what you believe the Tories should do BUT they look like Labour lite in parts and Labour heavy in the main. The EU referendum permissioned people to think of an alternative vision, it is what a collection of protections, and free market radicals wanted for very different reasons the problem that the UK has is that it is split and therefore no matter how much you say we need to put Corbyn on the spot asking what someone else would do when you are floundering and at the wheel does not help the Tory cause. What Corbyn has said is no different to that of most politicians about Brexit. The Tories are currently arguing over whether we should pay RAL dues or not across the media because they are in control. If you go to the polls in 2019 saying that you will not pay then you are arguing for a hard brexit with a minimal deal and years away from a deal that helps our economy. John Redwood is advising us not to invest in ourselves (if we pay him enough to tell the truth) so it is clear to me that you could not do better only works if the Tories can get a decent deal.

    The tories are still arguing with themselves as to what the deal they want until they decide they are pretty much in limbo hoping that something changes along the way. My view is that they cannot decide becasue it would tear the party apart. Labour’s problem is not that it is remain heavy in voters but that it needs to win leave seats which means that it has to tread a fine line. It is not the the Party that is the problem it is the voters for them.

    I think there is a reasonable proportion of leave voters would be happy with no deal, but will not be happy with the economic consequences. I think that remain voters will not be happy with no deal but would be able to survive those consequences. I also believe that leave voters have set themselves up for idea that there is switch somewhere which would bring the changes that they want and that everyone one wants. I fear that it is like pitting meat eaters versus vegans but the meat eaters are hindu and muslims they would vote for eating meat. but then the detail of which meat becomes the issue.

    As I often say Stoke voted leave because it cannot compete with Bristol that was happy to vote remain. the thing that makes Bristol attractive and (remain voting) does not start or end with the EU and that is something that will not be lost on all concerned.

    Say corbyn is a communist and his ideas are from the dinosaur period and then saying we need a massive house building program like we did in the slum clearance is humorous in that we are all Corynistas’ now. it is why you see people like Cleverly talking like Labour (Old labour at that ) they do have time since they are in government but either there is a magic money tree or there isn’t, either the state is good or it is not, either regulation is needed or it is not. I do not believe the Tories have had the debate although I fear in truth our society has not really had the debate and Iam sure that the real problem is the spending £50B on housing for example whilst perfectly feasible will bring with it some many unintended consequences that it may not look any better than not building any houses to society at large. Changing the balance of society when it is so unbalanced may just produce a pendulum effect where everything swings from one extreme position to another.

    It is interesting times

  45. LASZLO

    Good one!

    As a devout Epicurean, I’ll drink to that!

  46. Tory whip

    what act of treach*ry do you need to do to lose the tory whip these days.
    I present Anna Soubry formerly unimpressive minister who liked socailising now unimpressive studio hopper speaking in the EU interest. Has already called for the removal of two cabinet ministers in her own party.
    Surely the time has come?

  47. PRP

    “Basically Corbyn did everything but win.”

    Yep or in other words he lost.

  48. Laszlo

    The last two lines could have been appropriately written in Castilian Spanish.

  49. Re: Muslims and Christmas

    I am no expert on Islam (or anything else for that matter) but if I remember correctly, Muslims have no trouble celebrating the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, as they regard him as a very important Prophet – whose words and actions were misinterpreted by the Church.

    What Muslim cannot celebrate is Easter, as the Qu’ran says that Jesus (only) appeared to die on the cross (or, in some interpretations, someone else was on the cross, not Jesus). So no crucifixion and no resurrection.

    But Christmas is fine, as long as we’re clear Muslims couldn’t possibly sing ‘O come all ye faithful’, with its ‘God of God and Light of Light’ (verse 2) or the final verse with ‘Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing’. Not on for a Muslim.

    So whilst Muslims celebrate the birth of Jesus they understand it in a very different way from that of Christians. If I remember correctly….

    Sorry to go on. Will stop now.

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